Hawthorn vs Western Bulldogs (Qualifying Final 2)
Friday night, MCG
In probably the pick of the match-ups in the first round of the finals, the 2nd placed Hawks take on the 3rd placed Dogs. They've had about a month to prepare for this as they found themselves miles ahead of 4th, and yet miles from Geelong on the ladder. The Bulldogs won the Round 10 clash 106-74 at Aurora Stadium thanks to a free-running effort from their midfield. That was, however, many weeks ago and the Hawks have a bit more momentum than the Dogs at the moment. They've won four of their last five whereas the Dogs have won just two of their last five going into this match. Jason Akermanis is the key figure in the Bulldogs line-up; you can't help but wonder where the Lions would have finished if it was Aker delivering passes to Brown and Bradshaw this season rather than the current hopelessly errant Brisbane midfielders. I could kick more accurately than some of those guys and I haven't played the game since I was 15. But I digress, where was I? Ah yes, Aker. Love or loathe the man, he can still seriously play and brings a wealth of finals experience to the table. The Dogs have talent all over the park but if they win this, it will primarily be through the pace and pressure of their midfield. On the other hand, if the Hawks midfielders can get on top they should win comfortably, with their potent forward line, including the man responsible for banners such as "Buddy Brilliant" and "You Buddy Bewdy", to reap the benefits. I personally think that the $3.35 you can get on the Bulldogs is worth a look.
Adelaide vs Collingwood (Elimination Final 1)
Saturday, AAMI Stadium
Hmm...that is always my first thought when looking at a final played in Adelaide. Both the Crows and Power have had some shaky September performances/chokes and I'm expecting another nervy showing here. This is a winnable game for the Pies; they've won big finals matches on the road like this before, though this game is where they'll really miss Didak.
Adelaide are well drilled, well coached and solid across the park. In other words, watching the Crows sometimes is about as exciting as a Saturday night out on light beers. They will likely approach this game in a typically negative fashion by closing down any space and keeping the ball in contests on the ground. I'm expecting a big game out of Swan for the Pies and if he can find a few willing mates then they will be dangerous. In the Round 15 clash at the MCG the Pies won comfortably 106-74. They are decent value at $2.30...never trust an Adelaide side that is favourite in a finals match, particularly when in the back of their minds they thought they were going to finish 4th and have a second chance.
Sydney vs North Melbourne (Elimination Final 2)
Saturday night, ANZ Stadium
North Melbourne had the seemingly easy task of brushing aside an out of sorts Port Adelaide to clinch a top 4 berth, only to be humbled to the tune of 76 points and dropped to 7th. I'm surprised that any of them are still breathing after a choke of such proportions. They'll head to Sydney to take on the Swans and I have no idea how they are going to turn it around. The regular season clash in Round 6 ended in a 64-all draw. Sydney may not be as good as the past few seasons but should still be too strong for the Roos. Goodes will be the difference, and with his versatility, expect him to pop up for a touch at crucial moments. I'm still not convinced that Barry Hall has his volatile temper under control and what better stage to do something else stupid than a packed ANZ Stadium. Packed ANZ Stadium...it doesn't really roll off the tongue does it? Sydney at $1.75 seems extremely generous...maybe even worth dipping into your children's college fund...
Geelong vs St.Kilda (Qualifying Final 1)
A lot has been made of St. Kilda pinching fourth spot by hammering Essendon. Now all of a sudden they'll be taking it up to Geelong and winning a flag for Robert Harvey. Time for a reality check. The Essendon side they played last week may as well not have been there. In their minds they were already here:
The only hope for the Saints is to get away to a flyer. The Cats can be slow starters, but are irrepressible in third quarters so St. Kilda would want at least 6 goals on them by halftime. In Round 4 it was the Cats by 136-94 and I would expect a similar margin in this as the Cats take hold in the second half. The Saints most high profile fan Shane Warne has sent the boys a video to try and inspire them:
Enjoy the action. For the record, I'm tipping the Bulldogs and Pies in upsets and the Swans and Cats. Put it all together and you've got yourself a multi bet paying $15.78. Worth a sneaky one...